In the past few weeks I have officiated at two funerals, or as I like to call them, Celebrations of Life.

In both cases, they were way too young -- one in her 40s and the other barely 61. Both fought valiantly against their respective cancers and did so without loosing their faith. One would write each day in her journal of all the things she was grateful to God for and the other made it clear that nothing would steal their joy as they kept a positive attitude. Both of them were true servants, putting others first and themselves last. Both of them had hearts of respect and fairness toward others and viewed all of life and the people in it as gifts from God. Both of them had a deep faith in God and a deep love for their family and friends.

How often have we read an obituary, attended a funeral, memorial service or celebration of life only to quickly move on with our agendas and not linger too long in regard to those who have passed and how their lives could become lessons for us.

One of the first funerals I ever officiated was for a father whose two sons and one daughter met with me to discuss what we should do at the service. They basically said, "Do whatever you want, as we did not much care for our dad. He was heartless, loveless and selfish." They went on to say that they did not want to share any words at the service and not to be surprised if few people came. Well, about 11 people showed up and no one really cared.

The lesson I walked away with was concerning the legacy that I would leave. There is an old saying that you came into this world crying (when you were born) and everyone was laughing (celebrating your arrival), but when you leave this Earth, will you leave laughing and leave everyone else crying? It all depends on how you choose to live your life in between. The two recent funerals I officiated had lots of tears and the families of these two were deeply moved by their loss and had many great things to say about their loved ones.

The passing of others is probably not something you wanted to read about, but then again, I want to remind you that when someone dies, it is also a great time for learning and a consideration of our lives itself.

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King Solomon shares some great wisdom with us. In Ecclesiastes 7:2, he says: "Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies -- so the living should take this to heart." (New Living Translation)

This seems crazy. Who really wants to go to a funeral than a joyful party with great family and friends?

Solomon is saying, the lessons that we learn from contemplating life, the lives of others and our own mortality allow us to deeply process our futures. You think more about the value of each day and those in your life and what adjustments you need to make to become better versions of yourself. Make the most of every day, every gift, and every life and of the fact that someday you too will meet God. Hope when you leave this planet, you leave laughing and leave others crying.

Bernie Federmann is the senior pastor of Lompoc Foursquare Church and chaplain with Lompoc police and fire departments. He can be reached through mylfc.com.

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